Well, they’ve done it. Allegedly.
I mean it’s not “official” or anything, but ESPN’s Buster Olney (who is usually right on about this sort of thing) is reporting that the San Francisco Giants will surrender top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in exchange for All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran.
For weeks I’ve been saying that the Giants wouldn’t do what it takes to get Beltran. He’ll be too expensive to re-sign, I thought. Brian Sabean has been notoriously reluctant to part with young pitching prospects in the past. And Beltran, while an amazing and unique talent, has a long history of D.L. stints and lapses in power.
But now that the deal is (reportedly) going to happen, I couldn’t be happier.
Adding Beltran to AT&T Park’s outfield and the heart of the San Francisco lineup will produce immediate dividends for the Giants. They will acquire the best hitter on the market, and will finally make the big free agent splash that fans have been waiting for for years.
But the real reason I love the Beltran trade, the reason that I am fine with the fact that the Giants are giving up a top-of-the-rotation-type arm to get him, is that I trust Brian Sabean’s valuation of pitchers.
Sabean drafted and developed Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner. That worked out pretty well. He traded for Javier Lopez, which resulted in a World Series title, and gave up on Tim Alderson, which is looking more and more like a stroke of genius, even if the end result was a second baseman with knee ligaments made of paper mache.
For all of his trouble acquiring offensive talent (do the names Shea Hillenbrand, A.J. Pierzynski, Jose Guillen or Ryan Garko mean anything to you?), Sabean knows pitching. He knows when to hold onto it, and he knows when to deal it. It is his greatest strength as a G.M., and if he says that Zack Wheeler is worth giving up for (hopefully more than) two months of Carlos Beltran, then who are we to disagree?
The man’s track record is impeccable, and at this point, that is all the approval he needs.
Hopefully Beltran will be more than a rental. And hopefully Zack Wheeler hasn’t turned into a perennial All-Star by the time he turns 25. But even if Beltran leaves for a bigger contract at the end of the season, and even if Wheeler fulfills all of his promise, Sabean has earned a free pass on this one. The Giants are in desperate need of an offensive upgrade, and Beltran represents the biggest, shiniest upgrade available. He will push Aaron Rowand out of the rotation (hopefully permanently), provides an immediate defensive boost, and gives the Giants a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat.
Players like Beltran are rare, and sometimes you have to take a leap of faith—like hoping that he will re-sign, or giving up on a top prospect—to get this sort of high-caliber difference maker.
Although his stuff is as sharp as ever, the former first-round pick's command simply is not there. A May 23 scouting report noted Wheeler's control issues in a start for the Single-A San Jose Giants, and overall this season, he has 47 walks in 92 innings. Wheeler also has a 1.39 WHIP overall, drawing doubt as to whether he can live up to his top-of-the-line starter billing when he was drafted.
Although his talent may be tantalizing, Wheeler’s stock has fallen. Not dramatically, but enough to make him expendable for a club that already has one of baseball’s most stocked pitching staffs.
In acquiring Beltran, the Giants will address their biggest need while giving up a player whose talent is somewhat redundant within the organization. I had talked myself out of Carlos Beltran because of the fact the Giants hadn’t acquired an offensive superstar since Barry Bonds. But now that it is (again, allegedly) happening, I couldn’t be happier.
Trading for Carlos Beltran will be an epic win for the Giants. His level of offensive talent has been sorely missed in San Francisco for too long now. And coupled with a dynamic pitching staff, Brian Sabean has just made a move that could potentially bring the Giants one step closer to repeating as champions.
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